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Forward Niño Canaleta fired 21 points, while his teammates scored crucial baskets in the endgame to fuel the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings to an 85-77 victory over the Alaska Aces Wednesday at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

Canaleta also had eight rebounds and four three-pointers to lead Ginebra, which reverted its player rotation to allow its old mainstays to play more minutes. In their past games, the Gin Kings tried to inject youth to their aging lineup by giving its young players heavy playing time.

Veteran guards Mike Cortez, who chipped in 13 points and four assists, and Jayjay Helterbrand, who poured in 10 points and seven assists, doused water in Alaska’s fiery run in the late stretches of the game.

Ginebra seemed to pull away from Alaska after a 10-2 blitz capped by center Billy Mamaril’s layup gave the Gin Kings their biggest lead of the game at nine poins, 76-67, with 6:40 remaining in the game.

Alaska threatened to snatch the victory away from Ginebra as they trimmed the Gin King’s lead  down to two, 79-77. But Ginebra swingman Ronald Tubid scored in a breakaway off an Aces turnover to widen Ginebra’s margin to four, 81-77, with 2:09 left.

After Alaska center Sonny Thoss missed a jumper on the other end, Cortez, another veteran, swished an open jumper to extend their lead, 83-77, with 30.5 seconds remaining.

Helterbrand, who is contemplating his retirement after the season, punctuated Ginebra’s late run as he scored a breakaway layup to seal their fifth victory in five games.

Thoss finished 13 points and seven rebounds, while Bonbon Custodio contributed 12 points to lead Alaska, which submerged itself in the team standings after the loss, placing ninth with a 3-8 record.

The two worst-ranked teams after the eliminations are out for the playoffs.

GINEBRA 85 – Canaleta 21, Cortez 13, Intal 12, Helterbrand 10, Mamaril 9, Villanueva 7, Caguioa 7, Wilson J. 2, Wilson W. 2, Tubid 2.

ALASKA 77 – Thoss 13, Custodio 12, Reyes 11, Baguio 11, Dela Cruz 11, Tenorio 10, Baracael 5, Eman 2, Bugia 2, Salamat 0.

Quarterscores: 21-23, 42-46, 66-65, 85-77


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